The rise and fall of the midriff
Just when you thought the style was not only long gone, but dead and buried, crop tops have creeped back onto the catwalk and are set to be a hit this summer. If you wore the midriff during its previous hey days chances are you’ll need a little convincing in order return to the style once more. Before ‘mortified at the thought’ feelings set in may I remind you – we are only in December – 40 degree days are ahead of us, and in those non air-conditioning times, a little top ventilation never did anyone any harm.
The last time we saw the midriff return was in the late nineties. Don’t act like you can’t remember those navel pieced, hipster jean and halter midriff days. The late nineties and early noughties was ironically the low point for crop tops. While Britney and Shakira may have pulled off the ab-flashing style, other imitators were less lucky. An epidemic of muffin tops and love handles ensued. It wasn’t pretty and the midriff was quickly abandoned.
But it wasn’t always like that. There was a time when the midriff was sexy and sophisticated. The style dates back to the fifties and sixties when Lucille Ball and Rita Hayworth dared to show glimpses of their tummy with high waisted pants and slightly cropped blouses. Much like the fashion of the time, it was glamorous, polished and very flattering for the figure, thanks to the style only exposing the smallest part of the waist. In the seventies glamazon Cher and rock princess Debbie Harry dared to show their navels. While Cher’s style was figure hugging hippie and Debbie wore rock t-shirts that had been cut short, they were again both teamed with high waisted bottoms.
It wasn’t until the late eighties/early nineties that the midriff peaked in popularity as fashion designers reacted to the previous fabric-heavy styles of the eighties. Tummies were liberated and everyone from Madonna to Married with Children’s Kelly Bundy adopted the style. All looked good until pants lowered and Shania Twain came along.
And now here we are, contemplating the style once more. It’s no coincidence that fashion’s currently favoured eras, the fifties (thanks Betty Draper) and the nineties, were also at the height of crop top appeal. Versace, Rodarte, Friedrich Gray and Sara Phillips have all revived and incorporated midriff-baring tops into their collections. But no designer seems as keen on the style as Alexander Wang. The iconic nineties uniform of white crop tops teamed with high waisted denim shorts, black leather backpacks and Doc Martin boots has spawned a series of modern adaptations by the New York designer. From cropped sweaters to short athletic singlets Wang is practically a midriff wearing cheerleader for the style.
Naturally a toned stomach is ideal for a midriff win, but with the current combination of high waisted pants and cropped tees that fall just above the waist, only a hint of exposed flesh is needed to pull off the look. It is also possible to wear the style without having to bare any skin at all. Wear it under a blazer or over a maxi dress. The trick is to experiment with layering and proportion. Once you get the hang of it it’s relatively easy. You just need to be willing to forget Mariah and take the plunge – or should that be crop?